To A New Paradigm With FPB

Tech Talk

Following is where you’ll find Steve & Linda’s more technical articles. If you’re looking for info on the nuts and bolts of cruising, this is the section for you!

Marine Electronics: The Correct Blend of Capabilities


Having earned our cruising stripes with a sextant and lead line, when we were rarely ever certain of our location underway, we love the accuracy and ease of use of modern electronics. But it’s easy to get lost in the bells and whistles, at the expense of situational awareness. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 17, 2015)    |    Comments (22)

FPB 97-1 All Charged Up: Solar Report From Mark Fritzer

#1 Battery

Hi Everyone! I’m freshly back from a trip to Whangarei to do some testing on the 97 prior to delivery. While Todd and Sarah relaxed in the boardroom with flat whites enduring endless meetings, I was able to get aboard the 97 and do some eagerly anticipated testing of the electrical system. Read the rest »

Posted by Mark Fritzer  (January 26, 2015)    |    Comments (22)

Bilge Pump Tests – Surprising Results

IMG 0987

Cruising is said (by those in the know) to be going from one pump repair to another. We think we do a little better than this, but we are always looking to improve, and so recently conducted a series of tests with surprising results.

Read the rest »

Posted by Todd Rickard  (April 21, 2014)    |    Comments (21)

Chasing A Stabilizer Problem Far From Home – A Primer On Teamwork


Last week we worked with Peter Watson aboard the FPB 64 Grey Wolf to resolve a stabilizer system issue. We thought the communications regarding this might be of interest since these things do occasionally occur – typically somewhere far from home base.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 18, 2014)    |    Comments (2)

Making Your Watermaker Happy (Insights Into Taming A Temperamental Beast)

One of the blessings that comes with the FPB program is interaction with highly experienced owners (neophytes rarely have the background to understand the tradeoffs we make in the design process). These owners often bring with them excellent firsthand knowledge, based on years of real world trial and error, that helps us improve the FPB breed.

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 21, 2013)    |    Comments (0)

Efficient, Versatile, Easy-To-Use Communications: What Is the Answer For Cruisers?

Screen shot 2012 08 07 at 10 57 48 AM


Wind Horse is at anchor in Pulpit Harbor, Maine. This is a lovely spot: a few other yachts on moorings, room to swing for us, calm enough for the rowing dink, and an osprey nest at the entrance. It is less than an hour from “civilization”, as in Rockport or Camden. We could sit here for a long time if the communications were sufficient for us keep us up with our responsibilities. But given the spotty 2G reception from both Verizon and AT&T, we’d be hard pressed to spend much  time prior to this season. However, now we have this costly Pepwave router, and we’re glad we made the investment.

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 9, 2012)    |    Comments (7)

The Ultimate Cruising Communications Tool

Pepwave 2012 07 10 at 6 58 10 AM

When FPB 64-5 owner John Henrichs mentioned he was getting a Pepwave Router that would combine and/or select from a variety of Internet sources we were intrigued. With the need to be reliably available for Skype and e-mail traffic for the FPB production cycle, and cruising the East Coast of the US where connectivity is not always guaranteed, it seemed like it might be the right tool for us. But the price, somewhat less than 1300 US$, was a put-off. Still, from a business perspective, if it worked, it would be worthwhile.

We chatted with the techs at Pepwave and ended up with a Pepwave Max HD2 to test. Cory McMahon at Triton Marine Services did the install for us.

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 11, 2012)    |    Comments (11)

Oil Filter Leak


The last couple of days we have had a small oil leak on the port engine. Not much – what you see above is after six hours of running – but we wanted to find the source before proceeding.

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 14, 2009)    |    Comments (0)

Ultimate Thermostat Solution


We’ve been using a digital programmable thermostat to control our diesel boiler. This allows us to program four different set of time and temperature during the day. Our sleeping cabin is kept cold during the day, turns the heat on an hour before bed time, and goes to low heat (but still on) until morning, when we are programmed to warm up just a bit.

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 8, 2009)    |    Comments (1)

How Big Should Your Anchor Be?


We submit the photo above as a baseline for thinking about anchor size. We are ensconced in Vikingevagen, Norway. A tight, protected anchorage. Water depth is 40 feet (12m) and the barometer is plunging. It is gusting 40 knots, and the granite shore is 150 feet (45m) off our stern. This is not a situation in which you want to worry about anchor size.

So, how big an anchor is right?

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 8, 2009)    |    Comments (1)

Using Radar in Traffic

Dave Snow, a Puget Sound sailor sent some excellent questions about our recent blog about crossing the English Channel. We’ll try and answer them here.

channel cross-5a

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 20, 2009)    |    Comments (3)

Wireless Broadband – Maybe We’ve Found the Answer

You’d think London would be bristling with wifi options. There was good service in marinas from Falmouth to Southampton. But we’ve been bandwidth challenged in St. Katherine’s Docks.

We see two pay to play wifi options with our high gain antenna and access point. Both – BT Open Zone and Something Wireless – are slow and of intermittent availability. We subscribed to both – roughly US$22. per month for each – so we had a choice.

But wait. It gets better.

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 20, 2009)    |    Comments (4)

High Modulus Dock Lines


We have been using the same set of Yale Ropes high modulus dock lines coming onto four years now. These 11mm (7/16″) ropes are as strong as our normal 24mm (one inch) polyester, weigh a fraction of the latter, and are less prone to chafe. And they are obviously a lot easier to handle.

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 18, 2009)    |    Comments (0)

Warming the Bunk – Electric Blankets at Sea?

Last summer in Greenland, with water temperature barely above freezing and air about the same, we decided to see how tough we were, and if we could sleep with the diesel heater turned off.

A double dose of blankets did the trick. But the pain of warming the cool sheets at the beginning of our sojurn abed disuaded us from further experimentation.

Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 17, 2009)    |    Comments (1)

Genset Sound Shields – Good or Bad Idea?

When we purchased the Northern Lights genset for Wind Horse it was only available at the time with a sound shield. Since we were paying for it we decided to give it a try. However, a hidden salt water leak and less than robust latches convinced us to leave off the side panels. We were not comfortable with having to remove the side panels for routine inspection.


Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 10, 2009)    |    Comments (1)

Tips for Winter Yacht Storage

Although we have left our boats in many parts of the world, this is the first time where we have had to consider sub-freezing temperatures. We talked to folks from various areas who live in these climates and received all sorts of advice, some of which was in conflict. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 30, 2009)    |    Comments (0)

Answering a SetSailor’s Questions about Medical Insurance

At the request of a reader, Linda discusses how she handles health insurance while cruising, some new things she’s added to the medical kit, and her experiences getting health care in foreign countries.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 28, 2008)    |    Comments (1)

It’s Getting Warm: Awnings at Work in Georgetown, Bahamas

We’re anchored off Georgetown in the Bahamas. Water is 87F/30C and air about the same. Today the breeze lightened up and awnings, always important in the tropics, became critical. So we took a ride around the anchorage to see how folks were keeping their cool. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 12, 2008)    |    Comments (2)

Conference Calls from the Boat Using Skype

We’re anchored a mile from a beachfront restaurant to the west of Georgetown in the Bahamas. Amongst the services offered (in addition to cold beer) is WiFi. $15 for the week – not bad by cruising standards. As it is the beginning of the slow season and there are not a lot of users right now, the connection is robust. And with our hi-gain WiFi antenna and “access point” we are able to enjoy the benefits of being connected to the world while anchoring away from the crowd (thank you for installing the system, Troy Bethel!). One of the biggest benefits of this solid WiFi connection is the new (to us) Skype phone system for calling over the Internet. We are just getting up to speed with this 21st century marvel. Today, after digesting the latest metalwork drawings on the FPB 64 from New Zealand (the 3Mb file arriving by WiFi) we had a two-hour phone conference with Dave DeVilliers and Ed Firth who are doing the detailing. Both our drawings and theirs were open on the computer, and we could refer back and forth as various details were discussed. Exactly as would have happened if we were standing at the desk in our land office. The big difference is that we are out here, actually using the product as it was intended to be used. This is the only way to run a business!

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 11, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Cool Tool for Hot Work

Our recent foray into replumbing our hydraulic cooling system under way brought to the fore how valuable these heat resistant gloves can be. We picked them up in an Ace Hardware store some years ago. They are made from Nomex or Kevlar (cannot recall which), and for hanging on to fittings which are at 125 F (52 C) they work great. They are light enough to retain a bit of feel, enough so we are able to wrap Teflon sealing tape around small fittings (albeit with some difficulty). For jobs where it is really hot and/or the risk of being scalded exists (as with cooling circuits on the engine) we carry a set of welding gloves. These are not easy in which to work, so they remain new in appearance. The gloves above are worn in the engine room when it is warm, even for casual inspections.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 24, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

AC Power Management

With AC power consumption aboard at a personal record for us, we are experimenting with different management schemes. To begin with, we now have all four air conditioning units running. That is a total of 54,000 BTUs of capacity. In addition, the wash cycle is in full swing as this is being written. As the washing machine heats its own water, and the drier is a full sized unit, they really consume the Watts. In addition, it is breakfast time and the microwave is periodically using its 1000 or so Watts.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 24, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Cool Running: Managing Heat in Interior, Fridge, & Engine Room

The stop in Acapulco was brief. Eighteen hours to clear out of Mexico with the port authorities, top off the fuel tanks (again at US$2.40/gallon) and check the engine room.
The latter revealed that the raw water pump on the port engine had begun to leak sea water and oil from its shaft seals. This is just a couple of hundred hours after the starboard pump was changed, so we now know to rebuild these after 2000 hours. There is a spare on board and the R and R took half an hour. Everything else looked fine. We’re crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec as this is being written. Conditions are perfect, four to eight knots of breeze from the aft quarter and calm seas (just as predicted by our Expedition routing software and GFS weather model GRIB files). Water temperature has been between 85 and 87 F (29.5 to 30 C), air temperature the same in the evening and a little warmer in the sun. The heated environment stresses systems and potentially crew, unless the correct precautions are taken. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 21, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Cruising Compromises: Air Conditioning

Air conditioning on board: The logic behind the compromises.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 21, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Wind Horse Communications Update

We have a love/hate relationship with our comms gear. We really do like to stay in touch, especially with family and friends, but we don’t like the complexity. And the options keep changing. Prior to leaving for Panama we went through an analysis of what was currently available, our needs, and played this off against our tolerance for hassle (low). Here is what we found. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 18, 2008)    |    Comments (2)

Wind Horse Ethernet Update

Last spring we set up (with the help of a Best Buy “Geek”) a wireless network on Wind Horse. With a Verizon broadband card on one PC, a printer, and a second PC, this seemed like the right way to go. But then we needed to allow for the Furuno Fax 30 network weatherfax which is connected via an ethernet cable, which forced our Geek into all sorts of contorted computer logic. Now things are even more complex. We wanted to add a high gain WiFi antenna and amplifier so we could use WiFi at a long distance once we leave the world of Verizon. In addition, we now have an Imac (Apple) computer. This makes six items to connect to the network.
Troy Bethel
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 11, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Antenna Connections: Keeping Them Secure & Dry

A couple of new tricks we’ve learned from Troy Bethel, who has been helping us with updating our SSB e-mail system and installing a high gain WiFi antenna. To begin with, secure, dry antenna connections are a must, albeit not easy to do on a seagoing vessel.
dielectric waterproofing filler
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 11, 2008)    |    Comments (1)

Fresh Water Pressure Switch

If you have played with boats much, you know that the least reliable item on board is likely to be the pressure switch on the fresh water pump. To make matters worse, these are usually difficult to change. We have been averaging a year of use on our pressure switches, and a year ago decided to install an industrial pressure switch. But it wasn’t until a recent failure during Steve’s evening shower that action was initiated on this long overdue project.
Square D fresh water pressure switch
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 10, 2008)    |    Comments (2)

Victron Inverter Chargers: Is This Revolution for Real?

When we designed the systems for Wind Horse, a key component was the theoretical ability of her Mastervolt inverters to work in phase with the generator so that if necessary, the inverters would handle excess load. In theory, this allowed a smaller genset (our is just 8kW) which would be run at load most of the time. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 2, 2008)    |    Comments (2)

Wind Horse’s CV Axles after 2600 Hours

With 2600 hours on our CV Axles (between transmission output flange and prop shaft thrust bearing) and 8000 miles of travel in the offing, we figured it prudent to have a look at this important gear.Removing these is not easy. They reside in the very tight space between transmission and hull. But with the help of Dave Wyman, and expert suggestions from Tom at Ventura Harbor Boat Yard, we had them sitting in the shop after a couple of hours of grunt work. It will be easier next time as we know the system now.
CV axle maintenance
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 21, 2008)    |    Comments (3)

Cool Tool: Crimping Heavy Cable Lugs

hydraulic crimper for electric cables
Here is something that can have a big impact on your cruising plans. It is a hydraulic crimping tool, used to properly affix electrical lugs on heavy cables. If the correct dies are used, this makes a perfect job. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 21, 2008)    |    Comments (2)

Bottom Paint Maintenance

It has been 17 months and 12,000 or so miles since we last hauled out at Ventura Harbor Boat Yard. We were probably good for at least the trip to the UK before needing another coat of paint, but with some other maintenance projects to do we figured to get a jump on this chore (at half the cost of doing it in Europe). So we are back at our favorite haul-out site.
bottom paint performance
Wind Horse has basically been sitting since mid-September, with a couple of brief forays away from the dock. This has been in a canal, with lots of growth potential. The grass is on a spot which has been rubbed bare of anti-fouling. Most of the rest of what you see here would polish off if we went to sea for a few hundred miles. Being close to the waterline this area gets a lot of sun, which makes for more growth. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 20, 2008)    |    Comments (2)

Marine Insurance in Remote Cruising Grounds

When we launched Wind Horse we went with a new (to us) insurance carrier, Pantaenius. This is a German firm which acts as a broker, using various insurance markets. They appear to have a large percentage of the Eurpean cruising boat market. What impressed us were the comments we read on folks who had dealt with them on losses, and the fact that they would cover us for areas off the beaten path, with just two of us aboard. With the FPB 64 program coming along we’ve been getting questions about insurance, so we checked with Peter Kelly, who represents Pantaenius in the US. He said insurance rates are currently about seven tenths of one percent. The exact amount varies with which of the coverages are selected. We apparently get a very efficient rate due to the double bottom, water tight bulkheads, high factors of safety, and emergency systems aboard. A couple of weeks ago, as we started to think about “Plan B” (heading to Europe via Greenland and Iceland) we asked Peter what the difference would be in our insurance policy. He checked with the home office and we were advised that there would be no increase in charges. However, our deductible would be increased while we were in Greenland waters to what works out to four tenths of one percent. We were pleasantly surprised to find coverage was available and the increase in deductible seems quite fair, considering the remoteness of Greenland’s cruising grounds. If you would like more information on Pantaenius from the US contact [email protected] .

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 13, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Dinghy Tent/Awning

dinghy/life raft with rescue orange awning/tent
We have always thought of a properly prepared dinghy as a better option than the life raft in most situations. Our dink on Wind Horse always has its outboard spares/tools of course, along with ground tackle and abandon ship gear packed in watertight backpacks. There is a five-gallon (19 liter) water jug, and two six-gallon (22 liter) gas cans stored aboard as well. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 28, 2008)    |    Comments (2)

Testing an Induction Cooktop for Wind Horse

induction cooktop on boat galley
We have been testing an “induction” (magnetic) cooktop on Wind Horse. In theory, this takes a fraction of the power of conventional electric units, and we will be using these in lieu of propane on the FPB 64s. Result – this technology works really well. Linda was able to make a Sunday morning breakfast (boil water for coffee, cook bacon, and fry eggs) in just under 14 minutes of cooking time. Average draw off the inverter was 1300 watts during this time. This works out to 330 watts for a rather large (for us) breakfast which otherwise would have been cooked with propane. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 26, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Aluminum Hull Maintenance (AKA the Grind)

Last summer we spent a few days hanging out on the dock in Anacortes, Washington, seeing some friends and checking out the local boat building scene. It so happens the dock to which Wind Horse was securely affixed was the perfect height for touching up our topsides. When you consider Wind Horse had been on the go for the better part of 24,000 miles without our once having done any maintenance, it became apparent that the time had come for some serious cleaning. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 4, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Mechanical vs. Electric Engine Gauges

Faulty VDO oil pressure gauges
The photo above of the oil pressure gauges on our two engines was taken last summer as we were working our way through British Columbia. On the face of things, the oil pressure on the port engine is a little low and that of the starboard engine alarming. Is this the result of low oil level, a true oil pressure issue from bearings or oil pump, or a bad sensor? Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 14, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Strobe Lights for Visibility

Years ago we fitted a strobe light to the masthead of Intermezzo, to serve as a warning light to make sure we were seen by shipping. Later we heard this was not such a good idea, because it was difficult to determine distance off when viewing strobe lights. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 9, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Collisions/Radar Reflectors

In the summer of 2006 a 25-foot sailing yacht, Ouzo, was thought to have been run down in the English Channel by the passenger ferry Pride of Bilbao, with three lives lost. The British Marine Accident Investigating Branch (MAIB) conducted an inquiry. While debriefing the ferry’s crew, it was determined that the yacht did not show up on the ferry’s radar, but was seen at the last minute by the watch stander. In typical MAIB fashion the report goes into exhaustive detail about the yacht, the ferry, their respective crew, electronics, even types of eye glasses (with some interesting findings about photochromatic eye glasses). They discuss in detail maintenance issues about yacht running lights, including the information that the aging of plastic running light lenses reduces the transmission of light. A second report resulting from the MAIB investigation focuses on the various types of radar reflectors fitted to yachts and how they show up on the ships’ radars. The conclusions of their testing on this subject are sobering and bear careful reading.
  • To download a copy of the Radar Reflectors report (a 2.1 MB PDF file), radar_reflectors.
  • To download the MAIB report on lessons learned from the collision (a 1.4 MB PDF file), click here.

Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (October 8, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Knipex “Plier Wrench”

Knipex Plier Wrench
This tool is ideal for working where a standard crescent is too bulky or thick, and a channel lock does not have the grip power you need. You can order these in various sizes from most tool suppliers. Googling “Knipex” will get you a bunch of websites to check.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 3, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

PAR Bilge Pump Repair – Jury Rigging Check Valves

The air vents for the water tanks empty into the forepeak and engine room. We rarely fill these tanks, but when we do, we just wait until the bilge pump starts to cycle, indicating the tanks are overflowing, to turn off the hose. You can imagine our surprise when we heard the high water alarm sounding. We turned off the hose, and then checked the engine room. There was four inches (100mm) of water in our usually dry bilge. The big PAR diaphragm pump was running, but it wasn’t pumping (and as a result was quieter than normal). Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 28, 2007)    |    Comments (2)

US Customs Procedures

Most of the time when we clear into a US port after being outside US waters, the process is quick and easy. In all the years we’ve been doing this it has also been pleasant, with just one exception. Clearing into Roche Harbor in the San Juan islands from Canada was no different. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 2, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Musical Propellers

Occasionally propellers will “sing”. This high-pitched whine is the result of blade harmonics and the blade interaction with surrounding structure. If you have an even number of blades there is more chance of singing occurring. Typically this does not happen through the full RPM range, but it can be extremely annoying. Prop manufacturers deal with this by putting on a wavy anti-singing edge. In our case, the current set of propellers have a wavy shape to their trailing edges. Our previous props did not have this and were very noisy. So, we removed them and had a slight cup added which got rid of the singing and effectively added a bit of pitch. When we put on our latest set of props they were quiet except for the starboard prop at 1300 to 1500 RPM. Since we do not operate in that range we ignored the issue. But we found that at heavier displacement the singing would move up to the 1700 to 1800 RPM range and we do occasionally run at this speed. Not wanting to remove the starboard wheel and take it to a prop shop we asked John Hall of Premier Propellers if there was anything we could do on the boat. “File the aft side of the trailing edge for four or five inches (100 to 125mm),” was John’s reply. Although we have a dry suit aboard for cold water maintenance, we waited until we were in Desolation Sound, with its “warm water”, to do the job. Using a medium coarse flat file we took six light passes at each blade. The amount of metal removed was minuscule. You could see the bronze colored flakes in the water and there was not much material. However, we figured it was best to do this a little bit at a time to see what would happen. We picked up the hook and went for a test run and were pleasantly surprised to find no more singing. So, if you have a singing prop, try a little underwater filing, on the aft side of the trailing edge.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 21, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

More on Anchors and Sizing

radar image, Prideaux Bay, British Columbia
This is a radar image of one of the anchorages we’ve visited in British Columbia’s Desolation Sound. The radar is on quarter mile range, so each range ring is 300 feet (90 meters). We’re in the center of the image. There are 36 boats showing radar return! Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 20, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Ultimate Radar Mast

We’re anchored in Gowland Harbor on Quadra Island, across from Campbell River in British Columbia. The harbor is pleasant, and most important, our Verizon cell phone and broadband Internet connection are working. We’re here for a few days staying connected, catching up on a backlog of work. We can’t, however, spend all day online. At some point we usually take a tour in the dinghy. This time took us to a small marina to see if there was anything of interest. We mainly saw powerboats, plus a pretty Vancouver 27 at anchor; and there was one sailboat with the nicest looking radar mast we’ve ever seen. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 3, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

A Bug Zapper that Works

Insect Zapper
Here’s a cool tool that Linda first spied on a Canadian boat. It looks like a small tennis racket, with metal strings. There’s an electronic circuit in the handle which runs on a pair of AA batteries that puts a high voltage charge into the strings. All you have to do is touch an offending bug, and ZAP, it is toasted. We picked one up in the super market in Prince Rupert for $3.95 and it really works. We’re guessing these are available all over.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 1, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Cooking Aboard: Microwave Baking

As you may know, the galley tends to be a key element in our cruising. And in the galley, the oven is the most important piece of gear. This is particularly important on passages where an inventory of home-made cookies is an essential component of our routing. You can imagine, therefore, our chagrin when our Seward stove’s oven started to act up in Alaska. Discussing the symptoms with the guys at Sure Marine in Seattle led us to the belief that our “mercury valve”, which controls the oven, was again acting up (we’ve already replaced this once). What to do? Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 24, 2007)    |    Comments (2)

Pacific Coast Communications – Summer 07

Americas Cup 07
We’re not much into watching TV, except for sports. But sports are important, especially college basketball, so we’ve been carrying a Direct TV system coupled with a “FollowMe TV” antenna tracker. The tracker works well in smooth water at anchor in the mid-latitudes, but it has a harder time maintaining its aim as we get to the fringes of reception. We’re using a 24″ dish and we’ve watched Wildcat basketball as far south in Mexico as Cedros Island. We’ve also watched parts of the NBA finals, in Cordova, Alaska. However, at 61 degrees north, with the dish depressed to the maximum, looking through a forest of steel fishing boats, reception was more off than on. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 23, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Survival Training Part 6: Testing the Life Raft

Survival training, Part 6 of 6: Life rafts.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 12, 2007)    |    Comments (2)

Survival Training Part 5: Immersion Suits

Survival training, Part 5: Immersion suits.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 11, 2007)    |    Comments (4)

Survival Training Part 4: Man Overboard

Survival training, Part 4: Man overboard.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 10, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Survival Training Part 3: Fire Fighting

Survival training, Part 3: Fighting fires.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 8, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Survival Training Part 2: Flare Training

Survival training, Part 2: Using flares.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 7, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Anchoring Techniques for Worst-Case Scenarios

We’ve learned our anchoring lessons the hard way, by being caught at anchor, with ground tackle which was less than adequate, in situations where we wished we were at sea. That’s why we now carry such big anchors (and specify them on our clients’ boats). Our approach puts together an anchoring system that is designed for the worst possible scenarios. What are the types of situations you need to allow for? In the tropics you will often be anchored in thin sand over coral. This does not allow burying anchors, like CQRs, to dig in. Holding is not the best for any type of anchor, but the Bruce, Spade, and Rocna types work best based on our experience. The water can be deep. It is not unusual to anchor in 60 to 100 feet (18 to 30m). And protection is often from the southeast to east (typical for trade winds) but exposed to the southwest (where convergence winds come from). Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 5, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Survival Training – Introduction

In Sitka Steve and Linda take a fascinating survival training course, which leads to a 6-part series of articles. Here’s the first installment. Check back soon for the subsequent survival training articles.
Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 29, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Frost & Fridge Efficiency

defrosting galley freezer
Here is a look into our galley freezer this spring prior to defrosting the evaporator plates. The last time we defrosted was in the fall, so the build up you see is the result of the last six months (this totaled about half a quart/liter of liquid when we finished). Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 18, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Bargain Engine Oil Quality

We’re in Cordova, Alaska, and have just finished changing the engine oil. We’ve got 8 gallons of oil left aboard and decided to see what it would cost to add 5 additional gallons. We like to carry enough oil for a minimum of three changes – in case we should get water into an engine and need to flush it (it takes 2.5 gallons for a change). There is a NAPA auto parts store next to the harbor where the fishermen buy parts, so we figured they were a good spot to check prices. Chevron Delo 15-40, which is what we have been using, is $170 for 10 gallons. However, they have a NAPA brand oil that is just $120 for the same quantity. It carries the same government ratings as the more expensive Chevron brand. Is there a difference? We do not want to be taking chances with our little diesels! So we decided to e-mail our favorite diesel mechanic, Craig Hatton (Hatton Marine in Seattle). We figured if anyone knew about oil quality it would be Craig. His main thrust is servicing fishing boats, and commercial fishing folk are notoriously tight with their maintenance budgets. Craig’s reply was, “When it comes to oil, I can only suggest using products from major oil companies – i e. Chevron, Shell, Exxon. It is good to remember that the SAE rating only reflects passing minimum government requirements and does not give a real basis to compare the quality ranges between products. Though these brands are more expensive, they are quality products and in the case of engine longevity and preservation I cannot suggest buying bargain brands.” Looks like we’ll be staying with our higher priced lube oil.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 7, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Dry Suits in the Real World

Getting some real world practice in a dry suit.
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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 3, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Dealing With Wire Ties (New Cool Tool)

wire tie cutter
“How can there be any more cool tools?,” you must be thinking. Hang around with the professionals, keep your eyes open, and the tool bag gets more goodies! John Brooks from Ocean Alexander in Seattle was on board doing some maintenance on our Glendinning shift/throttle system. When John began to clean up the wire loom with lots of nylon ties we noticed this wire tie puller and cutter.
wire tie cutter
Simply grasp the tie end, pull, and then twist. These tools leave the wire tie cut off flush, so there are no sharp edges waiting to cut your hands and arms. These are sold by electrical supply houses, and come in a variety of forms and price ranges. John’s unit costs about $30. You can order one from McMaster Carr (type in wire ties in their search engine to find the page with these tools). We’ve got one aboard Wind Horse already.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 2, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Networking Wind Horse into the 21st Century

Walking around a Seattle electronics store, on our way to the ink supplies, we happened to see a new wireless printer. “Wow, how cool!” we said. If we had a wireless printer it could live in one of the aft cabins, or be brought to the saloon when we were doing a big project. We asked how hard this was to install and were told “Easy. Just follow the on-screen prompts.” By now you can see where this is headed. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 1, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Capsize Lessons

The following is copied with permission from the May 2007 issue of Sea Horse, the monthly magazine of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (our favorite sailing magazine). We recommend reading the comments several times. The lessons learned might just save your life… Read the rest »

Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (May 30, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Kabola Heater – After Two Years of Experience

One of the big decisions during the design of Wind Horse was our heating system – which keeps us toasty, and warms our washing and bathing water. At Jim Schimke’s suggestion (Jim is our heating guru) we went with a Dutch-built Kabola diesel heater. We chose a 65,000 BTU model with a built-in domestic water heater. The boat is kept warm with hot water pumped to a series of Jim’s MSR heater coils with 24-volt fans. We had one problem early on, a faulty water pump, but otherwise the system has operated flawlessly. It is quiet on and off the boat, very efficient (the exhaust is quite cool), and is capable of a 100% duty cycle. Lars Nilsson ( ) is the US distributor for Kabola. Since he is located in the Puget Sound area, we asked Lars to make a service call and check our heater. We were heading for Prince William Sound and Kodiac Island in a few days – and it can be cold up there – we wanted to stay ahead of the maintenance curve. We figured that after the equivalent of almost a full year of use, our Kabola might be showing signs of age to his expert gaze.
Kabola burner
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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 19, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Exhaust Noise

We said we’d report on how the revised exhaust system was working out after some time living with the change. We’ve put 1200 miles on Wind Horse since making the modifications, but before telling you what we think, we need to review what has been done. We had a very quiet propulsion system before we started this fine tuning. Wind Horse under power is quieter than Beowulf was under sail. But still, after 2000 hours of engine time, you forget how quiet things are in an absolute sense (57 dB as measured by PassageMaker magazine) and start to concentrate on what you are used to in the present. Machinery noise has always been muted, but exhaust noise, coming from the outside into the saloon through our 3/4″ (19mm) thick windows, was annoying.
dry exhaust to aqualift muffler
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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 19, 2007)    |    Comments (2)

You Get What You Pay for – or, Fake Bruce Anchors May Be Dangerous

Bruce Anchor
The real thing is shown in the next series of photos. Bruces are forged from a single piece of steel. No welding. Keep in mind that stiffness varies with the cube of the thickness of the item in question, so a little thickness has a huge impact in stiffness. Notice how thick the vertical portion of the shank is in the photo above, and also the thickness of the aft sides of the flukes. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 17, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Professional Approach to Changing Water Pump Impellers

We normally do our own water pump impellers, and have written about the process before on SetSail, but since Craig Hatton was aboard we thought we’d watch how a professional does this. We learned a lot!
impeller pulling tool
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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 15, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Tropical Awnings, Part 3

Here are some permanent awnings which work under way as well as at anchor.
dodger with collapsible Bimini awning
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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 3, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Adding Insulation to Wind Horse

One of the projects on our list to be done before heading back to cold water is adding a bit of insulation on the bottom of the hull in the forward and aft sleeping cabins. The normal practice with polyurethane foam is to stop it above the waterline. With our Armaflex being relatively hydrophobic, this precaution was not necessary. However, due to a miscommunication between us and the builder, the Armaflex stopped about a foot (30cm) higher than we wanted, as you can see in the photo above. As a result, last summer in Alaska we had a small amount of sweating on the bare metal in the forward and aft sleeping cabins. A few weeks ago we ordered a roll of Armaflex from a local supplier, and had them slice this into appropriate widths to use on the hull, frame webs, and frame caps.
The sliced material was then cut to fit.
The Armaflex has an adhesive backing. Peel the protective paper to expose the adhesive, and then push it onto the surface.
Here is what the area in the first photo now looks like. There is a slight difference in the finished surface. The original Armaflex was made to order for us and has an extra protective coating on it. This same approach will work if you have a fiberglass hull with a sweating problem. It also helps to deaden sound – something that is really helpful in most fiberglass boats. Armaflex is available from industrial rubber suppliers and also air conditioning supply houses (the air conditioning industry often uses Armaflex in air ducts).

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 21, 2007)    |    Comments (3)

Tropical Awnings, Part 2

awning covering whole boat
If you are going to be hanging out in one spot for a long period of time, perhaps living aboard while you work ashore, larger awnings come into the equation. These awnings provide shade over the entire boat. They will be a pain to rig, remove, and store, but when they are up and it is warm outside, they will be very pleasant. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 19, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Yacht-Sized Steam Cleaner

Some time ago we posed a question on SetSail looking for a miniature pressure washer to use in the engine room for cleaning those hard-to-reach spots which we all seem to have. Nothing came of the query, nor of any research we did on the Internet. Then a couple of weeks ago a friend mentioned a steam cleaning service in Marina del Rey. We called these folks and they came by and had a look at our relatively pristine engine room. Their gear was large, and only suitable for bilges – and the service was costly. But it gave us an idea, so we Googled “steam cleaning” equipment and came up with a bunch of resources. We eventually settled on a”Kleenjet Delux 175″ from Daimer Industries ( ). The unit appeared compact, and we figured the $395 price was worth it if we got a couple of cleaning cycles from it.
steam cleaner for yacht engine room
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Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 16, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Tropical Awnings, Part 1

If you plan on spending any time in the tropics, getting your awnings right will be high on the list of priorities. In general, awnings should:
  • Provide protection from sun and rain.
  • Be easy to set and remove (or reef). Think of this in terms of a 35-knot squall at 0300.
  • Catch rain water if the decks are not set up for this. And shed water in squalls if they are not being used as a catchment system.
  • Be strong enough to withstand years of sun, wind, and rain.
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Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 12, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Anchoring System Logic

dual anchors
We’re in the habit of walking marina docks with a pocket digital camera handy to record interesting details. The double anchor set up shown above reminded us of the olden days on our 50-foot (15m) Intermezzo. She had what we thought was the perfect system: a large CQR for everyday use, as well as a Danforth ready to go as a second hook and for use in soft mud where the CQR would not hold. One day we saw the light. Why have two anchors, with their attendant weight sitting on the bow, when only one was earning its way 99% of the time? Would it not make more sense to put ALL that weight into a single massive anchor, which was working 100% of the time? The answer is, of course, yes. A single, really big anchor gives you better holding in poor conditions, and in good conditions allows anchoring on shorter scope. This logic applies to all types of anchors. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 27, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Alcohol-Based Fuel Treatments

cracks in fuel filter due to alcohol-based fuel treatment
The cruising learning curve continues…If you look closely at the photo above you will notice some small vertical cracks in the bowl of our primary fuel filter. These also exist in our secondary filter bowls. We just noticed them in Mexico. They are on the inside, and not all the way through. We called our supplier today and found out the cracks are a reaction to alcohol-based fuel treatments. The same thing would happen if we were to clean the outside of these with Windex – which is also alcohol-based. These are not serious – yet – and the result of two years of service. So, we’ve got quite a ways to go before they begin to leak. Just in case, we’ve ordered a set of new bowls to to fit.
anti-fungal chemical treatment
We’ve been using BIOBOR JF as an anti-fungal chemical treatment. After reading the label, sure enough, we learned that it contains alcohol. BIOBOR and other fuel treatment suppliers make versions without alcohol. So, we’ll be switching over. Turns out alcohol can also affect some fuel hose products, and the plastic in some shutoff and check valves.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 23, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Seagoing Locks

locks on boats
We have several areas on deck which we lock if we’re going to be away from the boat for an extended period. These include the outboard, life raft, and four storage areas. We’ve used different types of locks over the years. The photo above is of Airbus brand locks. The left-hand lock was left hanging on a rail for the past 20 months. It was lubricated once in that period with WD40, and then again when we removed it recently. The lock at the right is a spare, to show you what these are supposed to look like. There has been a lot of fresh and salt water over these locks – 17,000 miles’ worth. And though, while we normally lube these every couple of months, these seem to do OK when abused.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 22, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

LED Running Lights Come of Age

LED running light from Aqua Signal
We’ve been watching the development of LED anchor and running lights for some time. Most of them have had some shortcomings, and none were approved as running lights, until recently. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 14, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Window Maintenance: Cleaning & Preventing Salt Buildup

How Linda cleans the salt buildup off of the bridge windows, and what she does to prevent salt buildup in the future. Then, Wind Horse puts her prevention steps to the test!
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Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 11, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Depth Finders for Navigation

In the olden days, pre-SatNav and GPS, the depth finder was one of the most important navigation tools. By comparing depths to the chart you could often figure out where you were. They were also handy for watching depth trends, giving an early warning of a rise in the sea bottom. On our own boats we’ve stayed with a simple digital depth finder – just a numeric read out. When we were thinking about the electronics for Wind Horse we considered going to one of the fancier “fish finder” style units, with a historic graphic display. But in the end, we opted to stay with a simple numeric output of the depth. Fast forward two years and we’ve been learning to use our SONAR for navigation. One of its modes is looking straight down, the same way you would with a fish finder. In this mode the transducer works if it is retracted – which we like, as it is not vulnerable then to debris or kelp. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 26, 2007)    |    Comments (2)